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The Origins of 15 of our Favorite Filipino Foods

Aug 22, 2016

Contributed by Tina Relampagos


August is Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa and History Month in the Philippines. There are many Philippine-loving celebrations around the world too! Even Prime Minister Trudeau got in on the action during the Fil-Canadian Fest last Saturday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Fil-Canadian Fest

As we celebrate everything Filipino this month, our hungry selves are putting some ample attention to the many dishes we’ve grown to love as Filipinos. We tried, and more often failed, to look for their origins, what makes them taste so good and where you can find one made especially for you today.


1. Adobo

Any Filipino who can cook can adobo (v.) anything acceptably edible – pork, chicken, squid, beef, etc. What makes it such a household name is that its taste is made up of the perfect mix of soy sauce and vinegar. This marinade was original done by Filipino natives to preserve food. The Spanish started calling it adobo or “marinade” (source: foodreference.com).  Despite it being called in a not so Filipino name, adobo is a well-loved dish for any Filipino family. And if you’ve had adobo, you know never to attempt eating it without rice.

Our Adobo favorite: Kabila’s US Beef Adobo

Kabila US Beef adobo

Share a US Beef Adobo at Kabila here. [image: pinasmuna]


2. Sinigang

No one is as happy to dig into anything sour as a Filipino eating Sinigang. It is such a common and timeless dish across the country that no one can pinpoint exactly where it originated but different provinces have their own way of creating it starting with the Tagalog version where the sour broth is made from tamarind. Nowadays, it’s all about using the most advertised instant Sinigang mix.

Our Sinigang favorite: Simple Lang’s Crispy Bagnet sa Watermelon

Simple Lang Crispy Bagnet sa Watermelon

Have a Crispy Bagnet sa Watermelon with colleagues at Simple Lang here[image: Simple Lang Facebook page]


3. Liempo

Liempo is all about marinating and grilling pork belly. The term itself is of Chinese origin but just like adobo and sinigang, each generation of liempo loving families has developed their own twist on the dish (source:tagaloglang.com). It all starts with soy sauce, a little bit of ketchup and other spices. Many have already explored the use of local herbs and spices to treat and grill pork belly.

Our pork belly favorite: Sarsa Kitchen+Bar's Thin-Cut Liempo

Sarsa Kitchen + Bar Thin-cut liempo

Sarsa Kitchen + Bar has branches in MOA, The Forum BGC, Legaspi Village, SM Megamall and UP Town Center. [image: bobbieschmobie.blogspot.com]


4. Tinola

Its origin is as easy to map out. If Lola doesn’t have the answer for that, then no one does. But Tinola’s distinct taste comes from the broth made from the mix of green papaya, ginger, onions and fish sauce. Leave it to the Filipinos to make a delicious meal out of all that.

Our Tinola favorite: Sentro 1771’s Native Chicken Tinola

Sentro 1771 has branches in Serendra BGC, Greenbelt 3 and Capitol Commons. [image: Sentro 1771 Facebook page]


5. Kare-Kare

Kare-Kare is credited to Pampanga, despite many claims on which country it originated from. It is a distinct Filipino dish with its peanut sauce. Traditionally, its meat component are beef and oxtail and is served generously with vegetables. It cannot do without shrimp paste or bagoong to add a salty taste (source: executivegourmet.ph).

Our Kare-kare favorite: Simple Lang’s Seafood Kare-Kare

Simple Lang Seafood Kare-Kare

Kare-Kare is a dish best shared with family. Bring them to Simple Lang with this. [image: Simple Lang Facebook page]


6. Palabok

Palabok is a rice noodle dish shared by the Chinese. Filipinos can easily identify it even from several feet away because of its shrimp sauce colored orange by atsuete or annatto seeds. It is best served with a lot of shrimp, chicharon, meat and hard boiled eggs. No one goes with a Palabok serving without a wedge of that hard boiled egg.

Our Palabok favorite: Simple Lang’s Crispy Palabok

Simple Lang Crispy Palabok

Give someone a well-deserved treat with a Simple Lang gift certificate[image: Simple Lang Facebook page]


7. Pares

Pares is very popular in more affordable food stalls and restaurants. It is simply a mix of rice and beef and some believe it evolved from a simple idea of making the best of cheap beef cuts. Beef texture should be soft, usually because it makes use of a lot of tendons and many who can cook it have different ways of bringing out that sweet-salty taste.

Our Pares favorite: Locavore’s Beef Pares Stew

Locavore Beef Pares Stew

Locavore has branches in Kapitolyo and Burgos Circle. [image: Locavore Facebook page]


8. Lechon

Lechon is Spanish by origin referring to roasted pig, making it a known dish even to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. The pig is marinated and drenched in oil while it is being roasted over charcoal or wood (source: mychatted.com). It is commonly served in special occasions especially family reunions, fiesta and the Holidays.

Our Lechon favorite: Abe's Lechon Cubano

Abe Lechon Cubano

Abe can be found in Serendra, Trinoma, SM Megamall, ATC and MOA. [image credit: flavorsofmanila.blogspot.com]


9. Crispy Pata

The old Filipino-family destination Barrio Fiesta claims to have created crispy pata. Crispy Pata is a deep fried crispy pork knuckles that is loved for its crispy skin, tender and well-cooked meat (source: appetizingadventure.com). It is best eaten with a condiment mix of soy sauce, calamansi and onions. Any Filipino knows that it is not for the faint of blood pressure.

Our Crispy Pata favorite: Livestock Crispy Pata

Livestock Crispy Pata

Livestock is located at 34 Sgt. Esguerra, Quezon City. [image: Livestock Facebook page]


10. Sisig

Sisig originated in Pampanga where pig’s face and ears are chopped and cooked with onions, soy sauce and other spices and served in hot plate (source: gmanetwork.com). Many Filipino restaurants are using different types of seafood and even tofu in place of meat.

Our Aling Lucing favorite: Mesa's Sisig in a Pouch

Mesa Sisig in a Pouch by Tripadvisor

Mesa has 11 branches, find them here[image: tripadvisor]


11. Bulalo

Local and foreign tourists flock Tagaytay for its popular Bulalo. A dish whose broth is made by slowly simmering beef bone with marrow. It is a perfect warm soup and meat-heavy dish for the cool weather of Tagaytay.

Our Bulalo favorite: Kabila’s Bone Marrow Bulalo

Kabila Bone Marrow Bulalo

Bulalo isn’t something you can finish yourself. Share Kabila Bulalo with someone here[image: Kabila Facebook page]


12. Tapa

Tapa is the Filipinos’ version of beef jerky where beef cuts are cured to reasonable saltiness, friend and served with garlic rice and fried egg. It isn’t clear where it originated from but it began as a popular breakfast dish because it is usually prepared the night before, to leave for overnight marinating, and can quickly be cooked in the morning.

Our Tapa favorite: Recovery Food's Tapa de Morning

Recovery Food Tapa de Morning

Recovery Food is a 24-hour restaurant with branches in BGC Crossroads and Stopover Pavillion, UP Town Center, Alabang, MOA, Newport City. [image: ph.openrice.com]


13. Kilawin

Kilawin or Kinilaw, commonly referred to as ceviche, is highly credited to Bulacan (source: kilawinmix.com). Kilawin/Kinilaw is defined by its fresh ingredients, usually fish or tuna cuts with cucumber, onions, spring onions, tomatoes and other vegetables mixed with local vinegar. The vinegar is what gives the meat or fish cuts its slight sear.

Our Kilawin favorite: Kabila’s Kilawin na Salmon

Something this unique is best shared with someone special. Give a Kabila gift certificate here[image: Kabila Facebook page]


14. Pakbet

Pakbet is a shortened term for Pinakbet which is Ilocano for “to shrink.” Pakbet is simply a mix of vegetables cooked in fish paste or bagoong in in a clay pot (source: inquirer.net). This Ilocano dish has come a long way being the go-to vegetable dish for any Filipino-cuisine inspired restaurant nationwide.

Our Pakbet favorite: Romula Café’s Bagnet Pakbet

Romulo Cafe Bagnet Pakbet

Romulo Café can be found in Sct. Tuazon Quezon City, Jupiter St. Makati and Azumi Boutique Hotel Alabang. [image credit: dude4food]


15. Halo-halo

“Halo” in Filipino is to mix and Halo-Halo is all about mixing different basic dessert elements into one huge ice cream cup. Popular during the summer, Halo-Halo is usually served with shaved ice, red beans, ice cream, milk, leche flan even some gelatin. Historian Ambeth Ocampo credits its origin to a Japanese dessert, kakigori (source: filipiknow.net).

Our Halo-Halo favorite: Kabila’s Halo-halo

Kabila Halo-Halo

Enjoy halo-halo on a warm afternoon with friends with Kabila gift certificates here[image: Kabila Facebook page]


Did we miss out on your other Filipino favorites? Let us know! And tell us where you think the best one is. To get ideas on what food to try and where on your local travels, get a Best of the Best: Philippines coffee table book with your travel buddy. Explore more dining destinations and world-class cuisines here.